“Manufacturers for the retail trade know the value of an attractive package as a stimulant to produce sales, and many concerns call on Burt’s know-how, born of long experience in box designing.” –Buffalo Courier Express, September 21, 1952
The F.N. Burt Co., 500 Seneca Street, employed as many as 2,500 people to make up to four million boxes per day for manufacturers across the United States and Canada. Frederick Northrup Burt founded the company in 1886 in a single-story space at 440 Main Street, entered the box-making business in 1896, and began construction of the plant at Seneca and Hamburg streets in 1900. Multiple plant expansions took place between 1902 and 1916, and a steel-reinforced concrete expansion nearly doubled the plant facilities between 1926 and 1927. This undated image, taken in the steel-reinforced concrete addition sometime in the 1940s, shows some of its mostly female workforce hard at work.
Mary Rebecca Cass, general manager of F.N. Burt from 1909 to 1935, grew the company from a small printing outfit to reportedly the world’s largest paper box manufacturer. Burt made boxes for everything from mascara to face powder, facial creams, hair dye, candy, pencils, birthday candles, ribbon, ice cream, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes with familiar names like Pall Mall and Egyptian Deities, and the many products of the Larkin Co. As early as 1917, the California Perfume Co., predecessor to Avon Products, retained Burt to make its round, oval, and oblong cosmetics boxes. Burt even invented the “paper cone cup” for water coolers—a product line sold to a competitor in 1925.
In 1959, the year that the I-190 East Buffalo section opened, the F.N. Burt Co. closed its Seneca Street plant and moved all operations to a new plant on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga. In 2010, 500 Seneca Street LLC, a partnership between Frontier Development Initiatives and developer Sam Savarino, purchased the vacant complex and announced plans for a mixed-use project named 500 Seneca. Today, work is wrapping up on renovations. Tommyrotter Distillery, one of the building tenants, opened last weekend.
Image courtesy of Burt Rigid Box, Inc.